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Tufts shuts out Christian group

Posted By Julie Foster On 04/25/2000 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

Tufts Christian Fellowship was stripped of its official “student
organization” status in a secret, midnight meeting because the group
would not allow an admitted homosexual to hold a leadership position.

Though Tufts University administration says Tufts
Christian Fellowship has not been “banned,” organizers of the group –
an affiliate of international college ministry InterVarsity Christian
Fellowship
— say the decision to
de-recognize TCF has the same effect as a ban.

In fact, TFC is no longer allowed to refer to itself as “Tufts
Christian Fellowship,” it has been stripped of its student organization
funding, meetings may not be held in regularly reserved rooms and the
group may not advertise its meetings or events on campus.

The decision to divest TCF of its organizational rights came from a
student-run governing body called the Tufts Community Union Judiciary.
Tufts’ administration gave the TCUJ authority to recognize student
groups; however, no student group has ever been derecognized.

According to a statement from the office of Tufts President John
DiBiaggio, “the Tufts Christian Fellowship has ten days to appeal the
TCUJ decision to the Committee on Student Life. The Committee on Student
Life has members of the faculty and undergraduate students.”

Tufts University President John DiBiaggio will not comment on
the actions taken against Tufts Christian Fellowship.

“The Tufts Christian Fellowship has indicated, through its counsel,
that it will file an appeal. While the matter is proceeding through the
students’ judicial system, it would be inappropriate for the
administration to comment on the case,” the brief statement concluded.

The TCUJ’s decision was prompted by a complaint against the Christian
club by Julie Catalano, who claimed she had been discriminated against
because of her sexual orientation.

Catalano sought a leadership position within TCF and asserted her
belief that homosexual practice is a biblically acceptable lifestyle.
Current leaders in the club, who choose leaders for the next academic
year, did not consider Catalano, saying her beliefs do not reflect the
“religious tradition” of the group.

Curtis Chang, TCF’s leader and affiliate chaplain at the university,
told WorldNetDaily, “TCF’s religious tradition … believes the Bible is
clear on the topic of homosexual practice. It is listed along with a
long list of practices that are deemed to not be in accord with God’s
wishes for human relationships.”

Chang noted “the TCF senior leadership’s position on homosexual
practice does not stem from homophobia. [Leaders] have consistently
affirmed their desire for homosexuals in general, and Julie in
particular, to be members of the group. They affirm the dignity and
worth of every human being, created in God’s image. They also
distinguish between homosexual orientation and homosexual practice.”

According to TCF’s chaplain, no one from the group’s leadership was
invited to the “emergency” meeting called by Tufts Community Union
Judiciary chair Jessica Branco to answer accusations of discrimination.

However, campus media were present at the two-hour hearing, which
began around 10 p.m. on April 13, and TCF was notified by voice mail of
the decision at 12:39 a.m.

“But more importantly than the secretive and rushed nature of the
judgment,” said Chang, “the ruling threatens the freedom of all campus
religious groups to practice their respective faiths.”

“The TCUF has essentially acted to legislate religion on campus,” he
continued. “Barring religious groups from using religious-based values
in leadership selection is the same as prohibiting them from practicing
the religious nature of their group. It is a fact that, in general, the
senior leadership of a group shapes the very beliefs and practices of
that group.”

“What if the Democratic Club demanded that they be represented in the
Republican Club’s executive committee?” Chang asked. “What if some very
liberal student activists insisted that ‘The Primary Source’s’ senior
editors must all write the same liberal views which they held?”

“The freedom of groups to live out their beliefs rests in their right
to set the criteria for leadership. This is why the TCF constitution has
the outgoing senior leadership select next year’s leaders. This process
of leadership selection was approved by the TCUF last academic year and
is similar to the way that many student organizations insure ongoing
consistency with their underlying purposes.”

Campus publication “The Tufts Daily” reported that neither Catalano
nor TCF membership was present at the “officially open” meeting.

Branco is quoted in the publication, defending her decision to hold
the hearing without notifying the parties involved.

“They both submitted documents,” she said. “The documents are
standing for themselves. While their presence is welcomed, it is not
required.”

The TCUJ is authorized to take action without a formal hearing “in
situations where an accused individual or group does not deny an
accusation or where the evidence available is irrefutable.”

“We’re obviously going on the appeal part of the [regulation],”
Branco continued. “If we feel that the nature of the situation is
endangering the Tufts community and this is a special circumstance, we
can prevent the Tufts Christian Fellowship [from] using Tufts’
resources.”

Hadley Arkes, a jurisprudence professor at Amherst College, wrote a letter to Chang after the decision was
handed down.

“What the University has done is nothing less than declared orthodox
Christianity and Judaism — and Islam — as illegitimate, as religious
traditions that should have no legitimate place in the life of the
University, or in the lives of the students collected there,” he wrote.

“That is, altogether, a remarkable position for anything that calls
itself a University, for the universities usually pride themselves for
being enclave of free discussion” Arkes added.

Branco did not return repeated calls from WorldNetDaily.


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